I admit it…I have a strange obsession with hashtags.

So much so that when I scroll through my grams, leisurely so, I’ll pause for a moment to take in someone’s hashtags.  Usually, something will catch my eye and interest me – a new hub? A theme tag I’ve not seen before?

For the non-HubHackers, I see a lot of random hashtags, lots of hub tags that haven’t posted in YEARS.  And I scroll on.  Because – who am I kidding?  They’re not paying me to help them with their hashtags!

For HubHackers, when I see things like typos, a missed # or an old theme tag, I’ll DM them to let them know.

Because we’re now limited to only 30 hashtags, it is more critical than EVER than we use those 30 hashtags to our absolute advantage.

Look – I’m a bit OCD with my tags, I admit it.  But I actually customize every single hashtag list for every single post I make.  It takes me…maybe 5 minutes?  I know I’ve got some practice, but I do believe that you can also learn to spot the best hashtags for your posts quickly.  I’d never ask a busy mama and business owner to spend more than 5 minutes constructing a hashtag list for a single post.

But if you’re just going to paste in the same exact 30 tags for every single post, then…ok, tough love here, folks – then don’t complain about your engagement and features being down.  You gotta spend at least 5-10 minutes and I know from a lot of experience, it’s worth it – if you want more hub features and more engagement.

Well, that brings me to this morning, as I’m scrolling around.  I see my dear friend Divya’s fabulous post – a #Wolflection – and a GOOD one.  They’re all good, so this one was great.  And I glanced at her hashtags and noticed a few odd ones.

EDITED TO ADD: Divya let me know that she threw this hashtag list up in a big hurry.  It’s not indicative of her typical hashtag list.  She was under a time crunch and just threw it together.  We’ve all been there!!  Me too – I can relate to having to do a loop post and OH CRAP I need hashtags!!!!

When I asked Divya if I could audit her tags, she admitted that it’s much harder now that we’re limited to only 30.  I could not agree more!

Before we begin, I’ll ask these questions of Divya:

  1. Do you use a tool to suggest hashtags?
  2. Do you use hashtags that you see other big ‘grammers using?
  3. Do you use hashtags that you see as “related” in hashtag search?
  4. How long has it been since you did your own audit – to ensure you remove old, obsolete hub tags?

I’ll return to those questions later on…

Ok – this isn’t designed to be a knock on Divya – she’s amazing!  She’s a talented photographer, and genuinely awesome human (I’ve gotten to spend time IRL with her at last year’s Clickaway!) and she’s kicking major a$$ with Insta.  She’s currently got over 14k followers and is becoming a bonafide influencer!  (I knew her way back when she was @rocketmoonphotography!)

But to keep her going and growing, I want to make sure that every single one of her 30 tags is working FOR her.

Here’s the image with the hashtags beneath:


#raw_reflection #reflectiongram#reflecting_perfection #bns_reflection#storytellinghands #jj_its_kids#candidchildhood #lookatthatface#natgeoyourshot #redtricycle#huffpostgram #theweekoninstagram#instagood #baby #babygirl
#LittleFierceOnes #pixel_kids #clickinmoms#childhoodunplugged #letthembelittle
#cameramama #dearphotographer

Ok – So I love that she identified certain elements in the frame and used main hub tags that feature those elements: Reflection and Hands.  Those are niche hubs with far less traffic than general hubs.

Then, she used good maintags for more general kids hubs: #jj_its_kids, #candidchildhood, #pixel_kids, #childhoodunplugged, #dearphotographer and #cameramama.  I think these are good choices.

She used #clickinmoms, and being that she’s a Click Pro and an active member of that community, I think that was a great choice too.  From experience, I’ve only seen @ClickinMoms feature one non-Click Pro image.  The competition is fierce too!

Let’s talk about #natgeoyourshot… I don’t believe (could be wrong!) that using this hashtag will give you a chance to be featured on @natgeoyourshot. I believe that to be eligible for a feature and to get voted for in the Daily Dozen (a daily photo contest where the winner IS featured on the hub) you must be a member of NatGeo Your Shot.  Maybe Divya is!  But to be featured, she would need to submit her images on their website, through her account.

One thing I’ve always found annoying is that to vote for your favorite image, you must create and account and login, and it’s not very user-friendly from a mobile phone to do that.  I’ve seen several friends get in the running to win the Daily Dozen; they’ll put the link to vote in their profile or in a swipe-up linked Story, but when I realize I have to either remember a password or set up an account…I usually just bag it.  Then, you have to confirm your email address.  Only after that rigamarole can you vote.  Lotsa barriers to entry on this one.

I can see the draw to tag #natgeoyourshot – the account has 1.3 million followers and the hashtag has 2.2 posts.

Also, note that most, but not all, of the featured images are pretty intense outdoor, landscape, wildlife shots – not unlike what comes to mind when you think of the National Geographic brand.

So…If it was my image, I probably wouldn’t use #natgeoyourshot here.

Divya used the tag #lookatthatface.  I could totally see that within the caption, as a part of the caption – not necessarily in the body of the text, but just below.  As a cute way to show some personality.

Here’s what her caption looks like:


I would have put that hashtag before the #WHP and the #mywolflection tags.  But after the text body.

While #lookathatface has 441k posts tagged to it….I’m not sure that tag will reach the people Divya is looking for, to follow her account.  And it’s not tied to any hub.

But, if used just after the text body of her caption, I do think it would be a way to add a little personality, which is just fine!


Speaking of #WHPMirrorImage, this is a hashtag that gives you a chance to get featured on THE Instagram account.  Divya uses this theme as inspiration every weekend.  (It’s the Weekend Hashtag Project, duh.) It’s important to note that the rules changed recently.  Instead of specifying that the image must have been created over the weekend (Friday night through Sunday night) now Instagram says that you must POST the image over the weekend.  But they announce the theme just before the start of the weekend, so you’ve got to work quickly.  I think Divya may have posted this image on Monday, so I don’t believe it would be eligible to get featured.  However, there’s a new hub, @whpme that will feature WHP images the following week. I’d like to see her change a tag to #whpme in order to get featured there.

#MyWolflection is one of Divya’s branded hashtags.  Sadly, anyone can start using it too, but it’s poor form!  I love that she groups her themed images this way, and I’m a big fan of that.  If you have a particular subject matter or theme that you shoot and post, but it’s not your sole content, using a branded hashtag can be a great way to group them all together to see at once.  Be sure no one else is using that hashtag before you select it.  For pro photographers that shoot weddings, families, newborns, seniors….This is also a great way to make it easy for prospective clients to see all of your work in a particular genre.  For example, if I stole Divya’s business name, she could use #weddings_rocketmoon, #familyphotography_rocketmoon, #newborns_rocketmoon, #seniors_rocketmoon, etc.  (Notice that the keyword is first…You’ll show up in search higher up. Hint hint.)

Take a look at ALL of Divya’s amazing reflection shots!!! #mywolflection.

Now, let’s look at #huffpostgram  – another SUPER popular tag to use, but I’m not sold on it.  Now, the HuffPost brand has several insta accounts.  Their main one, which I’ve included a grid gallery of below, posts mostly celeb stuff.  In fact, I stopped scrolling pretty quickly, because it seemed to be ALL celeb stuff.

In a Huff Post article written in 2015, the writer says that using #huffpostgram could get you a chance to get featured on one of their insta accounts.  Maybe in the last three years, they’re just not doing that anymore?

And in fact, this same article references an ongoing Huff Post Photo Contest called “Through Your Lens” which you could get featured on by using #huffpostgram.  Some google searching revealed that this contest has not existed since 2015.

One of the Huff Post brand’s insta accounts is called How to Raise a Kid.  Ok, maybe Divya’s image could get featured there.  But a tap later, and I’m met with more of the same – just random celeb stuff.

Would I use #huffpostgram?  Nah.  I feel like it’s a waste of a tag.  Could you get some folks searching that hashtag that would see your image?  Maybe, sure.  But…I dunno, the ROI doesn’t seem worth it for that hashtag.

Let’s look at #redtricycle.  Now, this is a feature hub that’s been around forever.  So, it’s a fine one to tag, but…they post very infrequently.  I would much rather use a hub tag for a more popular hub that posts several times a day.  Also, the engagement is super low on this hub.  19.6k followers sounds good – but again – it’s one of the OG hubs.  Scroll down to see how many likes/comments their images get.  Very few.  Chances are good that even if you did get featured here, not many people would see it.  I would not use this tag.

Let’s look at #theweekoninstagram.  Now, this is one of several hashtags that you could use to get featured on THE INSTAGRAM account.  Emphasis on the word “could.”  In the past, I’d seen an image featured on @instagram with this hashtag about once a week. But it’s not clear whether using that hashtag led to the feature, or if there are Insta-curators that are scouring around looking for interesting images.  In my research just today, 10/24/18, I had to scroll all the way back to mid-September and did not find a single feature tagged to #theweekoninstagram.  Lotsa WHP’s and at least one #weeklyfluff.  They’re also really trying to promote IGTV.

Because Divya does an incredible job with her WHP (Weekend Hashtag Project) images, I’d stick to that.  In fact, she did use that hashtag here, which I totally agree with and think is awesome!  I hope to see it featured on INSTAGRAM!  But using #theweekoninstagram…?  Nah.  I wouldn’t bother if it were me.

Let’s look into #instagood.  This is definitely a mega-hub!  With 844k followers as of the time of this writing, and fairly good engagement, this would be a bucket list hub to get featured on.  But two things strike me about her use of this tag.  First, the valid tags they mention in their caption are #watchthisinstagood for main features or #instagood10k for a Story feature for accounts under 10k followers.  So, the tag itself isn’t helping her.

Secondly, the type of content they feature is primarily those epic, scenic shots.  Lots of landscape and HDR images.  It would be out of the norm for them to feature this particular image of Divya’s.  Not that it’s not a fantastic image – it IS.  It just doesn’t fit their brand and I don’t think it would have a great chance at a feature here.  Divya does post images with more scene – more wide angle, environmental shots.  She could try #watchthisinstagood for those types of images and see what happens.  I still don’t think her style is a good fit for the content that they typically feature, however.  Here’s what their grid looks like:

Now, let’s tackle the tags #baby and #babygirl.  Hmmm… While there is a fairly random hub that features from #baby with decent engagement…it’s really not her aesthetic.  Some pictures featured are very random cell phone pics – this is not really a photography hub.  The tags #baby and #babygirl just don’t lead anywhere with purpose, ya know?  And they’re heavily tagged, lots of traffic.  I just don’t see those tags helping her much.

Let’s jump to the end with #jj_forum_2406.  @jjcommunity is the OG Instagram hub!  It gets pretty good engagement and is a big favorite.  Josh and his team announce a new theme every single day and it’s fun to play along.  I do think Divya has a great chance to get featured on JJ.  It’s a general photography hub – all types of images, digital and cell phone shots.  But the editors do a great job of choosing interesting images and I think her type of pictures would have a great chance to get featured there often.

Now, we have 7 hashtags remaining.  And my news isn’t good here.  You’ve already seen many hashtags above that I think took up precious tag real estate and didn’t really help her. These next also fall into that category.  (I’m sorry, Divya!!!)

#oureverydaymoments is a typo.  The correct tag, which would be an excellent choice, would be #our_everyday_moments.  Mods really don’t search or feature from hashtags that are typos.  It’s kinda scary out there, because the typo tag has 449k posts tagged to it!!! The correct tag has 2.5, but still, there are a LOT of people using the wrong hashtag.

#LittleFierceOnes.  I think this could have been a hub at some point, however, I have no record or memory of it.  There are 499k posts tagged to it….but no corresponding hub.  I just don’t know what the purpose of using that tag would be.

Now, here’s a VERY interesting one!  #letthembelittle.  Ok – this has LONG been on my list of Obsolete tags.  It has 5.5 million posts tagged to it.  But prior to literally 4 DAYS AGO, there was no hub associated with it!  That’s right folks.  4 days ago, @letthembelittle.featured launched.  They only have one mod, it appears, so the future is a bit uncertain. (The biggest cause of hub failure is a lack of mods.)  While I thought that when I wrote this, I’d tell her not to use that tag, I guess it actually is now a hub.  So, I stand corrected 😉

Let’s look at #makeportraits.  Now, this is a tag that the GREAT Summer Murdock puts in almost every single caption.  I think that’s why everyone uses it.  It has 7.9 million posts tagged to it!  But WHY?  Why, I ask you?  Where does it lead?  What is it for?  There is a hub called @makeportraitsmag that uses the #makeportraits hashtag in its name.  But it hasn’t posted since March 2017 AND its bio states to use the hashtag #makeportraitsmag.  I can’t think of why I would use that hashtag.

#TakeMyHeartDear Again, why?  Maybe use it like #lookatthatface in the caption to add some personality?

#honestmotherhood This has 1.4 million posts tagged to it.  I can’t figure out why! (Insert laughing while crying emoji!) The result you’ll see below @honest_motherhood is someone’s personal account.  @honestmotherhood.clt appears to be a Charlotte, NC-based off-shoot of the Rising Tide Society.  Divya’s based in Minneapolis, so this doesn’t make sense for her.

Last but not least!  #writeyouonmyheart is tied to a lovely hub, @writeyouonmyheart, but they haven’t featured anything since February of 2017.  For my HubHack members, I have a HUGE list of defunct hubs and tags that I just don’t understand.  This has been on there for a long time.

Always be sure that you know where your hashtags are going.  With only 30 hashtags, if you want to grow your following and influence, use good hashtags.

HubHack is a service that daily hashtag lists for relevant hubs.  I’ve found that this is the best way to increase your audience and my members have seen incredible growth. Click here for more info and to sign up. 

Oh, remember those questions I had at the beginning…?

  1. Do you use a tool to suggest hashtags?
  2. Do you use hashtags that you see other big ‘grammers using?
  3. Do you use hashtags that you see as “related” in hashtag search?
  4. How long has it been since you did your own audit – to ensure you remove old, obsolete hub tags?

Never use a tool to suggest hashtags.  They’re crap.

Big Instagrammers have some of the worst hashtag habits I’ve ever seen.  Simply copying what others are using doesn’t help you.  I’ve literally seen what appears to be a copy/paste of tags on certain people’s accounts and I can sometimes even tell WHO they copied it from!!

If you do a search in Instagram for a particular hashtag, sometimes “related tags” will appear.  Those are not vetted in any way.  Many of those tags are obsolete.

Moral of the story: Do a hashtag audit.  Hashtag with purpose.  You only get 30, so make ’em good! Make ’em count!

Questions?  Did I miss something?  Let me know in the comments below or DM me on Insta over at @photographerhack.

Peace out,